My Turn: The Villas at Harborside will benefit the West Shore
Recently the Sierra Sun printed a My Turn column from a group calling themselves Friends of the West Shore, which asked the public to deny the proposed Villas at Harborside development, in favor of yet three more oversized, lakeside McMansions, which will statistically stand empty 90 percent of the year. Im writing to clarify doubts about this project and the well-being of Homewood and the West Shore, and hopefully to finally dispel negative misinformation. The Villas consists of nine timeshare units, clustered 1,700-square-foot Craftsman-style cottages, on three lakefront parcels. This area along West Lake Boulevard in Homewood is adjacent to the West Shore Caf & Inn and Homewood High & Dry Marina, and across the street from Homewood Ski Area; its zoned commercial with accepted residential use. Fact: The Villas is the continuation of a project privately funded by Mr. Nate Topol, which began with conditional TRPA approval for a commercial/residential subdivision in 1996. The permit allowed for, but wasnt limited to, the potential of single-family homes. The first phase of redevelopment started with demolition of numerous old buildings and removal of 30,000 square feet of paved land coverage. Lake access was created and preserved in perpetuity and new landscaping put in place, including maintenance of larger evergreens. Next came re-building of the West Shore Caf, new TRPA-approved pier construction, and three new timeshare cottages. Before Mr. Topol started his project, this area was dotted with miss-matched, run-down vacation cabins in varying states of disrepair, the seaplane port (fuel tanks, engine repair shop), the original seasonal West Shore Caf housed in shacks, and an old pier. People need only to open their eyes to appreciate what Mr. Topol has developed and the contribution hes already made to the West Shore beautiful, well-designed facilities reflecting the historic Old Tahoe character. Even more importantly is that this privately funded redevelopment was well-received by residents and businesses and highly acclaimed by visitors and second-homeowners alike. The few in opposition to this next phase of The Villas have thrown up irrelevant obstacles, making self-serving claims based on misinformation and innuendo. Fact: Mr. Topols project completed to date has been done with TRPA approvals, and by meeting nearly 200 project-related conditions. The Villas as planned meets or exceeds all regulatory agency requirements. Parking regulations meet and exceed requirements. Tandem parking is an accepted solution and is no different than at your home. The Villas project has received full support from TRPA staff and recommendation for approval. Fact: Throughout planning stages of The Villas, Mr. Topol considered all reasonable concerns and suggestions of his neighbors. Hes hosted several workshops to introduce and explain the project to the community. Fact: The project as presented by Homewood Homeowners Association (HHOA) to its members for a vote was fraught with misinformation, miss-stated facts and errors. Later, when Mr. Topol presented his project to this group correcting falsehoods, members changed their opinion and expressed support. Fact: The Villas doesnt affect Homewood High & Dry Marinas buoy field. Villas owners may buoy their boats as space allows. As is the requirement of all H&D customers, boat trailers would be stored, not parked along the highway.
The oppositions choice of three single-family McMansions would have detrimental effect on Homewood and the West Shore. Fact: McMansions would require removal of most larger evergreens. The smaller timeshare cottages will be strategically placed to preserve as many trees as possible. Fact: McMansions would significantly block view corridors to the lake. The well-planned placement of the cottages provides several view corridors per parcel. Fact: McMansions arent in keeping with the scale and character of the West Shore, which is historically noted for small, charming vacation cabins. These characteristics will be reflected in the construction of The Villas timeshare cottages. The plan includes removal of the outdated cinderblock Homewood Marina Motel and the transfer of multi-bed tourist accommodation units (TAU) from this facility to The Villas timeshare units within TRPA guidelines. Removal of the old motel will also allow more open space and natural landscaping along the highway. Fact: McMansions will contribute to more traffic and congestion, not less. Theyre permitted without retiring nine existing TAUs, which would be gone when converted to The Villas. Fact: The Villas will provide visitors who will contribute to our small business economy exponentially more than single-family homes that are hardly used. By nature of the shared ownership and rental program, these homeowners (and renters) will utilize local resources when using their vacation home (ski/bike rentals, restaurants, shops, even other lodging facilities), infusing the local economy. The Villas at Harborside would indeed set a precedent for future development. Its a well-planned, well-constructed project meeting and exceeding all regulatory agency requirements. The design blends with Old Tahoe ambiance of historic Homewood. It provides lake-view corridors and guarantees public lake access with specially designed amenities. Its design fits into the commercial corridor and will stimulate the economy positively. Potential developers of other areas of the lake should mirror this project for their future projects. Regulatory agencies should use The Villas as a guide for other redevelopment. Dont allow self-serving, shortsighted folks to influence this much-needed redevelopment project. The next hearing is set for Feb. 28 at South Lake Tahoe. You can offer your support for this project by contacting the governing board of the TRPA: Phone (775) 588-4547, or individual board members e-mail addresses at http://www.trpa.org.Lolly Kupec is a 30-year West Shore resident and businesswoman. She is co-owner of Wild West Communications Group, serves on the Tahoe City Downtown Association Board of Directors as secretary, was re-appointed by Supervisor Kranz to the Tahoe City Design Review Committee, and was recently recognized by the NLT Chamber of Commerce with its Distinguished Community Service Award.